Opposites Attract: The Duality of the Tarot Deck

Throughout the tarot deck, you’ll find that the world of the tarot is a world divided by two. Aristotle said, “Most human things go in pairs.” People, concepts, and themes are consistently depicted in dualities: male and female, light and dark, day and night, summer and winter, hot and cold, birth and death, yin and yang.


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Even the structure of the tarot deck itself is divided by two. Obviously, the deck is split between the “big secrets” of the Major Arcana, and the “little secrets” of the Minor Arcana. Likewise, the four suits of the Minor Arcana are divided into two groups. For ease of reference, Wands and Swords are considered “masculine” suits, while Cups and Pentacles are “feminine.” Wands and Swords are “active,” and Cups and Pentacles are “receptive.”

That language isn’t intended to be sexist. It’s symbolic. It reflects how we see the world, and how we think.

We see the world in terms of twos. We learn by comparing and contrasting opposites and extremes. Along the way, we define ourselves not only by what we are (male or female, tall or short, blonde or brunette), but also by what we are not (happy or sad, young or old, quiet or loud). Even the court cards reflect a division between male and female and young and old, and the characters in those cards embody those roles.

Most of us spend our lives searching for the perfect balance between two extremes. Should we work or should we play? Should we speak or stay silent? Should we pursue our own interests, or should we collaborate with someone else? The twofold nature of the tarot helps us see both sides clearly, so that we can find a comfortable balance in our own lives.

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